Friday, 13 June 2014
Carla Laemmle was born Rebecca Isabelle Laemmle on 20 October 1909 in Chicago. Her parents were Carrie "Belle" and Joseph Laemmle. Joseph's younger brother was Carl Laemmle, the founder of Universal Studios. It was in the winter of 1920, when Miss Laemmle was eleven years old, that Carl Laemmle invited his older brother Joseph and his family to move to Southern California. The family settled in Universal City. Growing up there Carla Laemmle witnessed the making of many of Universal's early classic films.
Eventually Carla Laemmle became a part of the motion pictures themselves. A trained dancer, she made her debut in an uncredited role in the classic Phantom of the Opera in 1925 in the role of a prima ballerina. She had uncredited roles in Topsy and Eva (1927) and Uncle Tom's Cabin (1927) before receiving her first credit (as Beth Laemmle) in The Gate Crasher (1928). In the late Twenties she appeared in the films The Broadway Melody (1929), and King of Jazz (1930).
With her first film of the Thirties Miss Laemmle made history, speaking the first lines in Dracula (1931), a film that not only sparked Universal's dominance of the horror genre for nearly 15 years, but also the First Golden Age of Horror Movies as well. In the Thirties she appeared in such films as Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935), His Last Fling (1935), The Adventures of Frank Merriwell (1936), and On Your Toes (1939). In between films she worked at such dance venues as the Paris Inn in Los Angeles.
Later in her life Carla Laemmle returned to the silver screen, appearing in the films The Vampire Hunters Club (2001), Pooltime (2010), A Sad State of Affairs (2013), and The Extra (2014). Her last film, Mansion of Blood, is in post-production. She also became a valued source for the early history of Universal Studios and its horror films. She appeared in such documentaries as Lugosi: The Forgotten King (1985), Universal Horror (1998), and The Phantom of the Opera: Unmasking the Masterpiece (2013), as well as such TV series as Midnight Madness: The History of Horror, Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films and Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood. In 2003 David J. Skal interviewed her for Carla Laemmle Remembers: An Interview with David J. Skal. In 2009 her book Growing Up With Monsters: My Times at Universal Studios in Rhymes, co-written with Daniel Kinske, was published. She was also a regular at many classic horror film conventions, including Monsterpalooza.
Carla Laemmle only appeared in 17 films and in most of them she only had small roles. Regardless, she was always pretty and pleasing on the screen, and she was a talented dancer. I have always suspected that she could have had a much larger role in motion pictures than she did. I could have easily seen her in the musical comedies of the Forties.
Of course, Carla Laemmle's biggest contribution to the world of film may not have been her various film roles, but instead her many memories of growing up at Universal. Carla Laemmle was present at the studio's early years and her memory remained sharp all her life. Because of this she proved to be an invaluable source of information on the early days of Universal, including the making of their classic horror films. Had it not been for Carla Laemmle, her wonderful memory, and the love she had for her family's legacy, we might not know as much about Universal Studios' early days as we do.
While Carla Laemmle was an invaluable source for Universal's history, it must also be pointed out that she was also an utterly wonderful woman. Of my various friends who had the opportunity to meet her I believe each and every one of them fell in love with her. She was a very sweet woman who always had time to speak to classic movie fans and always offered kind words to them. The kindly, sweet natured woman one saw in her interviews was pretty much what Carla Laemmle was in real life. If Carla Laemmle was so loved by classic film buffs, it was not simply because she was a first hand source for movie history. It was because she was a truly wonderful, beautiful soul as well.
Thursday, 12 June 2014
Ruby Dee was born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio on 27 October 1922. She grew up in Harlem in New York City. She graduated from Hunter College in 1945. She studied acting at the American Negro Theatre. Among her classmates were Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. It was in 1943 that she made her debut on Broadway in a bit part in South Pacific. She appeared on Broadway several more times in the late Forties, in such productions as Anna Lucasta, Jeb, A Long Way From Home, and The Smile of the World. She made her film debut in That Man of Mine in 1946. In the late Forties she appeared in such films as What a Guy (1948), The Fight Never Ends (1949), and No Way Out (1950). She starred as Jackie Robinson's wife in The Jackie Robinson Story (1950). She made her television debut in a WNBT production The First Year. It was in 1948 that she married Ossie Davis, with whom she would frequently collaborate over the years. Mr. Davis died in 2005.
In the Fifties Miss Dee appeared in such films as The Tall Target (1951), Go Man Go (1954), The Great American Pastime (1956), Edge of the City (1957), St. Louis Blues (1958), Virgin Island (1959), and Take a Giant Step (1959). She appeared on television in Play of the Week. She appeared on Broadway in Raisin in the Sun.
In the Sixties Ruby Dee appeared in such films as A Raisin in the Sun (1961), The Balcony (1963), Gone Are the Days! (1963), The Incident (1967), and Uptight (1968). On television she was a regular on Peyton Place from 1968 to 1969. She guest starred on such shows as Alcoa Premiere, The Nurses, The Fugitive, East Side/West Side, The Defenders, and The Bold Ones: The Protectors. She appeared on Broadway in Purlie Victorious. In 1965 she became the first African American actress to play a lead role at the American Shakespeare Festival when she played Cordelia in King Lear. She later played Kate in The Taming of the Shrew.
In the Seventies she appeared in the films Buck and the Preacher (1972), Black Girl (1972), Cool Red (1976), and The Torture of Mothers (1980). On television she and her husband Ossie Davis hosted the show Ossie and Ruby!. She appeared in the TV movies The Sheriff (1971), To Be Young, Gifted, and Black (1972), It's Good to Be Alive (1974), and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1979). She guest starred on the TV shows Tenafly and Police Woman, and appeared in the mini-series Roots: The Next Generations.
In the Eighties Ruby Dee appeared in such films as Cat People (1982), Go Tell It on the Mountain (1984), Do the Right Thing (1989), and Love at Large (1990). She guest starred on such television shows as Spenser: for Hire, American Playhouse, China Beach, The Golden Girls, and Hallmark Hall of Fame. She appeared in the mini-series Lincoln and the TV movies Windmills of the Gods and The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson. She appeared on Broadway in Checkmates.
In the Nineties Miss Dee appeared in such films as Jungle Fever (1991), Cop and ½ (1993), Tuesday Morning Ride (1995), Just Cause (1995), and A Simple Wish (1997). She was a regular on the television show Street Gear and had a recurring role on the show The Middle Ages. She guest starred on the shows American Playhouse, Evening Shade, Cosby, Promised Land, and Touched by Angel. She appeared in the mini-series The Stand. She appeared in such TV movies as Captive Heart: The James Mink Story, Passing Glory, and Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years.
From the Naughts into the Teens she appeared in such films as Baby of the Family (2002), Naming Number Two (2006), The Way Back Home (2006), All About Us (2007), American Gangster (2007), Steam (2007), The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll (2009), Dream Street (2010), Red & Blue Marbles (2011), Politics of Love (2011), A Thousand Words (2012), and 1982 (2013). On television she provided the voice of Alice on the animated series Little Bill. She guest starred on the show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
In addition to her long acting career, Ruby Dee was also a writer. She was a contributing editor to Freedomways Magazine and wrote a column for the Amsterdam News. She also wrote the play Take It From the Top and co-wrote the film Uptight. With her husband Ossie Davis she co-wrote a joint autobiography, With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together.
With her husband Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee was also active in the Civil Rights movement. She and her husband were both close friends of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Miss Davis was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis served as masters of ceremonies for the March on Washington in 1963. Both she and Ossie Davis were arrested in 1999 outside 1 Police Plaza in New York City protesting the shooting of unarmed Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo by plain clothes officers of the NYPD.
Ruby Dee was a most remarkable woman. Throughout her career she gave a number of incredible performances, from Ruth in Raisin in the Sun to Mother Sister in Do the Right Thing to Mama Lucas in American Gangster. Along with Ossie Davis, Sir Sidney Poitier, and Harry Bealafonte she was one of the artists who helped African American actors break free of the stereotypical roles of servants and comedy relief in which they had been cast for much of Hollywood's history. Much of her work examined race and race relations in America, including Gone Are the Days!, The Incident, and Uptight. Upon her death Gil Robertson IV of the African American Film Critics Association said, "Throughout her seven-decade career, Ms. Dee embraced different creative platforms with her various interpretations of black womanhood and also used her gifts to champion for Human Rights. Her strength, courage and beauty will be greatly missed." Much more so than many members of her profession, Ruby Dee truly made a difference.
Wednesday, 11 June 2014
Martha Hyer was born on 10 August 1924 in Forth Worth, Texas. Her father, Julien C. Hyer, served one term in the Texas Senate and later served as a judge. During World War II he served in the Judge Advocate General's Corps of the U.S. Army, and took part in the the prosecution of war criminals during the Nuremberg trials. As a child Martha Hyer enjoyed riding horses and actually wanted to be a cowgirl when she grew up. She earned a bachelor's degree at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and later took acting classes at Pasadena Playhouse.
Martha Hyer made her film debut in an uncredited role in The Locket in 1946. She appeared in uncredited roles in the films Born to Kill (1947) and The Woman on the Beach (1947) before receiving her first female lead role in the Western Thunder Mountain in 1947. For the remainder of the Forties she starred mostly in Westerns, appearing in such films as The Velvet Touch (1948), Gun Smugglers (1948), Roughshod (1949), The Judge Steps Out (1949), Outcasts of Black Mesa (1950), and The Lawless (1950). She made her television debut on an episode of The Lone Ranger in 1950.
In the Fifties Miss Hyer appeared in such films as Oriental Evil (1951), Wild Stallion (1952), Yukon Gold (1952), Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953), Riders to the Stars (1954), and Down Three Dark Streets (1954). It was with Sabrina in 1954 that she was finally able to break free of the Westerns and films noir in which she had been appearing. In the film she played Elizabeth Tyson, the rich fiancée of David Larrabee (William Holden). For the rest of the Fifties she appeared in such films as Cry Vengeance (1954), Francis in the Navy (1955), Kiss of Fire (1955), Battle Hymn (1957), The Delicate Delinquent (1957), My Man Godfrey (1957), Houseboat (1958), Some Came Running (1958), The Best of Everything (1959), and The Ice Palace (1960). On television she guest starred on such shows as Fireside Theatre, Schlitz Playhouse, Private Secretary, Public Defender, Four Star Playhouse, Lux Video Theatre, Playhouse 90, Climax, and Rawhide.
In the Sixties Martha Hyer appeared in such films as The Right Approach (1961), The Last Time I Saw Archie (1961), The Man from the Diners' Club (1963), Wives and Lovers (1963), The Carpetbaggers (1964), Bikini Beach (1964), First Men in the Moon (1964), The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), The Chase (1966), The Night of the Grizzly (1966), The Happening (1967), Once You Kiss a Stranger... (1969), and Crossplot (1969). She guest starred on such TV shows as Route 66, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Bewitched, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Burke's Law, The Name of the Game, It Takes a Thief, and The Virginian.
In the Seventies Miss Hyer appeared in the film The Day of the Wolves (1971) and on the TV shows The Young Lawyers; O'Hara, U.S. Treasury; and McCloud. She the retired from acting.
There can be no doubt that Martha Hyer was beautiful. In fact, in the Fifties she was often compared to Grace Kelly. And while Hollywood was content to use her only in Westerns in her early years and later in sophisticated, rich women roles, she was also a talented actress with a good deal of range. She was nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Some Came Running with good reason. Miss Hyer excelled in the role of schoolteacher Gwen in the film, a role very different from the many sophisticates she had played in previous films. She also did well as the plain spoken owner of a boarding house, Mary Gordon, in The Sons of Katie Elder. And while Picture Mommy Dead is not necessarily a good film, Miss Hyer does well in a role quite unlike those of her earlier career, playing a scheming gold digger intent on driving her rich husband's daughter mad.
As was often the case with many of Hollywood's lesser known actresses, much of Martha Hyer's best work was done in television. One of her best performances was in the Route 66 episode "An Absence of Tears", in which she played a blind woman bent on avenging her murdered husband. She was also remarkable in several guest appearances on Burke's Law, on which she played a number of different roles. Perhaps the best was "Who Killed Wade Walker", in which she played a sultry, alcoholic nightclub singer who may or may not have committed murder. While Martha Hyer may be best known for her roles in Westerns and as rich sophisticates, she was actually capable of playing many different roles. She was far more than the mere substitute for Grace Kelly she was often viewed as.
Tuesday, 10 June 2014
Karlheinz Böhm was born on 16 March 1928 in Darmstadt, Germany. His father was Austrian conductor Karl Böhm and his mother was German soprano Thea Linhard. He grew up in Darmstadt, Hamburg, and Dresden. In 1939 he moved to Switzerland, where he attended the boarding school Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz throughout World War II. He studied philosophy at the University of Graz in Austria. Although he trained as a pianist, he found himself drawn to acting. He made his film debut in an uncredited, bit part in Der Engel mit der Posaune (1948), on which he also served as an assistant to director Karl Hartl.
From the late Forties into the mid-Fifties Karlheinz Böhm appeared in such films as Wienerinnen (1952), Haus des Lebens (1952), Alraune (1952), Salto Mortale (1953), Arlette erobert Paris (1953), Der unsterbliche Lump (1953), Die Sonne von St. Moritz (1954), Die heilige Lüge (1954), Die Hexe (1954), Ewiger Walze (1954), and Sommarflickan (1955). In 1955 he appeared in Sissi, the first in director Ernst Marischka's films about Empress Elisabeth of Austria. The film proved to be an international success and shot both Karlheinz Böhm and Romy Schneider (who played Empress Elisabeth) to stardom. Mr. Böhm and Miss Schneider also starred in the other two films in the trilogy, Sissi - Die junge Kaiserin (1956) and Sissi – Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin (1957). For a time Mr. Böhm found himself typecast in similar, romantic roles. For the remainder of the Fifties he appeared in such films as Die Ehe des Dr. med. Danwitz (1956), Kitty und die große Welt (1956), Blaue Jungs (1957), Das Schloß in Tirol (1957), The Stowaway (1958), Das Dreimäderlhaus (1958), and Kriegsgericht (1959).
It was in 1960 that Karlheinz Böhm appeared in what is now his most famous role in the English speaking world, that of Mark Lewis in Peeping Tom. The role was a sharp contrast to the romantic nobles he had been playing. Quite simply, Mark Lewis was a quiet photographer with a murderous bent. At the time of its release Peeping Tom proved very controversial and was widely denounced, but is now regarded as a classic. In 1960 Mr. Böhm also appeared in Too Hot to Handle and Der Gauner und der liebe Gott.
In the Sixties Karlheinz Böhm appeared in such films as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962), The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), Come Fly with Me (1963), Rififi in Tokyo (1963), and The Venetian Affair (1967). He guest starred on such TV shows as The Wonderful World of Disney, The Virginian, Burke's Law, and Combat. On television he also appeared in a German adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's Traumnovelle.
From the Seventies into the Nineties Karlheinz Böhm appeared in such films as Magic Graz (1972), Schloß Hubertus (1973), Fontane Effi Briest (1974), Faustrecht der Freiheit (1975), Mutter Küsters' Fahrt zum Himmel (1975), and Inflation im Paradies (1983) . He starred in the Austrian/German TV series Ringstraßenpalais and guest starred on Tatort and Der Bergdoktor.
In addition to being an actor Karlheinz Böhm was also a humanitarian. In 1981 he founded Menschen für Menschen to help those in need in Ethiopia. In addition to providing famine relief, Menschen für Menschen has worked to improve medical care, agriculture, water supplies, and education in Ethiopia. In 2007 Mr. Böhm was given the Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace and Brotherhood among Peoples for his humanitarian work. In 2011 he and his wife were given the the Essl Social Prize for his humanitarian work.
Karlheinz Böhm was a remarkable actor. Indeed, it can be hard to believe that the same man played Kaiser Franz Josef in Sissi, Mark Lewis in Peeping Tom, and Jacob Grimm in The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. Although he was typecast as princes and counts for a time, Karlheinz Böhm had a gift for playing different sorts of characters and doing it very well. It must also be noted that Mr. Böhm went beyond being an actor to become a humanitarian as well. He did a good deal of good for the people of Ethiopia, and his organisation Menschen für Menschen is still running. Karlheinz Böhm was not only a great talent, but also a great human being as well.
Mona Freeman was born on 9 June 1926 in Baltimore, Maryland. Her family later moved to Pelham, New York. Growing up she wanted to be a magazine illustrator, although she was also interested in drama. She was 14 years old when she took up modelling to help pay for her older brother's education at Yale.
She enrolled at the John Roberts Powers modelling agency school. It was not long before she was selected as the first Miss Subways in 1941. Miss Subways was a title developed by the New York Subways Advertising Company and the John Robert Powers modelling agency as a means of drawing people's attention to the various advertisements about the subway. Most Miss Subways were working women (secretaries, nurses, school teachers, et. al.) and the title was bestowed on women of several different ethnicities (Thelma Porter became the first African American to bear the title in 1948). Curiously, when Mona Freeman was named "Miss Subways" she had never ridden the subway. She rode it for the first time when she was given the title.
Mona Freeman's stint as Miss Subways led to a movie contract with Howard Hughes that would later be bought out by Paramount. She made her film debut in a small part in Till We Meet Again in 1944. This was followed by small parts in such films as National Velvet (1944) and Here Come the Waves (1944). She received slightly larger roles in films such as Together Again (1944), Roughly Speaking (1945), and Junior Miss (1945). It was with Black Beauty in 1946 that she received her first lead role. In the late Forties she appeared in such films as That Brennan Girl (1946), Dear Ruth (1947), Mother Wore Tights (1947), Streets of Laredo (1949), The Heiress (1949), Dear Wife (1949), and Copper Canyon (1950).
In the Fifties Mona Freeman appeared in such films as Dear Brat (1951), The Lady from Texas (1951), Flesh and Fury (1952), Jumping Jacks (1952), Thunderbirds (1952), Angel Face (1952), Before I Wake (1954), Dial 999 (1955), and Hold Back the Night (1956). In the Fifties she began appearing frequently on television, guest starring on such shows as Zane Grey Theatre, The 20th Century-Fox Hour, Lux Video Theatre, Studio 57, Wagon Train, Playhouse 90, Wanted Dead or Alive, Riverboat, Maverick, and Thriller.
By the Sixties Miss Freeman's career was almost solely in television. She appeared on such shows as The United States Steel Hour, Perry Mason, and Branded. She made her last appearance on television in the TV movie Welcome Home, Johnny Bristol in 1972. Afterwards she worked as a portrait painter.
Sadly, Mona Freeman was typecast as an innocent teenager for much of her film career. It would be in television that she would largely get to prove her talent as an actress. Among her roles on television was that of Modesty Blaine, a character she played twice on Maverick. Modesty was about as far from the teenager roles she had played on film as one could get: a sharp confidence artist who could easily match wits with the Mavericks. She also made multiple guest appearances on Perry Mason, playing a different character each time. Perhaps the best performance she gave on Perry Mason was in "The Case of the Illicit Illusion", in which she played a woman convinced she was going insane. In the episode Wanted: Dead or Alive episode she played a woman suspected of killing her husband, a role far removed from those for which she was best known.
Of course, while much of her best work was done in television, this is not to say Mona Freeman did not do fine work in film, even if she was constantly playing teenagers. While she always seemed to be playing teens, at least her roles did vary somewhat. She was able to play everything from sweet natured Anne in Black Beauty to the more precocious Miriam in Dear Wife and Dear Brat. If Miss Freeman was typecast as teenagers, it was perhaps because she could play a variety of different sorts of teens and was able to do it well. Regardless, Mona Freeman was an actress of considerable range that was sadly underutilised by Hollywood.
Monday, 9 June 2014
Rik Mayall was born Harlow, Essex on 7 March 1958. His parents both taught drama. When Mr. Mayall was three years old his family moved to Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire. It was there that he grew up, often appearing in his parents' plays. He attended The King's School in Worcester and then the University of Manchester. It was there that he met Ade Edmondson, as well as Ben Elton and Lise Mayer, with whom he would later write The Young Ones. It was at the University of Manchester that Messrs. Mayal and Edmondson formed the comedy group 20th Century Coyote. The group developed a reputation at the Comedy Store. They later created their own venue, The Comic Strip, alongside French and Saunders, Arnold Brown, and Alexei Sayle. The Comic Strip developed a following, and Rik Mayall's career was well under way.
Rik Mayall made his film debut in 1980 in The Orchard End Murder. The same year he made his television debut in an episode of The Squad. In the early Eighties he appeared in the television specials The Comic Strip and Kevin Turvey: The Man Behind the Green Door, as well as guest starred in episodes of Wolcott and Whoops: Apocalypse. Along with Ben Elton and Lise Mayer, Rik Mayall created the television show The Young Ones, which aired from 1982 to 1984. In addition to writing The Young Ones Rik Mayall also played Rick, the anarchist poet who was obsessed with Cliff Richard. Also starring on the show were Ade Edmondson (Vyvyan), Nigel Planer (Neil), and Christopher Ryan (Mike). Rik Mayall also wrote and starred in the shows Filthy Richa & Catflap and The New Statesman. He appeared in the Blackadder series The Black Adder, Blackadder II and Blackadder Goes Forth. He guest starred on the shows The Lenny Henry Show, Happy Families, Saturday Live, Jackanory, and Grim Tales. He appeared in the films Couples and Robbers (1981), Shock Treatment (1981), Eat the Rich (1987), and Whoops Apocalypse (1988).
In the Nineties he continued to star in The New Statesman and starred in the show Bottom, which he also wrote. He provided the voice of Keehar in the animated series Watership Down. He guest starred on The Bill and In the Red, and appeared in the special Blackadder Back & Forth. He appeared in the films Drop Dead Fred (1991), Little Noises (1992), Carry on Columbus (1992), Remember Me? (1997), Bring Me the Head of Mavis Davis (1997), Guest House Paradiso (1999), and Merlin: The Return (2000). He provided voices for the animated feature films The Princess and the Goblin (1991) and The Snow Queen (1995), as well as the animated TV specials as The Wind in the Willows (1995) and The Willows in Winter (1996).
In the Naughts he starred in the TV shows Tales of Uplift and Moral Improvement, Believe Nothing, and All About George. He provided voices for the animated series Shoebox Zoo and King Arthur's Disasters. He guest starred on Murder Rooms: Mysteries of the Real Sherlock Holmes, Gina's Laughing Gear, Minder, Agatha Christie's Marple, and Midsomer Murders. He appeared in the films Kevin of the North (2001), Day of the Sirens (2002), Cold Dark (2003), Oh Marbella! (2003), Chaos and Cadavers (2003), Churchill: The Hollywood Years (2004), and Just for the Record (2010). He provided the voice of Cufflingk in the animated feature Valiant (2005).
In the Teens Rik Mayall appeared in the shows Damo and Ivor, and Man Down. He guest starred on Jonathan Creek. He appeared in the films Errors of the Human Body (2012), One by One (2012), and Don't Fear Death (2013).
Rik Mayall was a comic genius with an anarchic brand of humour that very few comedians have matched before or since. He was also a genius when it came to creating memorable characters. He may be best known as Rick the sociology student and anarchist who wrote bad poetry and was obsessed with Cliff Richard. His other characters differed from Rick on The Young Ones a good deal. He played the showy Flashheart on the Blackadder series, scheming Conservative MP Alan B'Stard on The New Statesman, perverse lunatic Richie on Bottom, and irresponsible journalist Kevin Turvey in various comedy routines. Rik Mayall was a comic genius with a madcap style of comedy who was also capable of creating and portraying three dimensional characters. That made him a very rare talent.